Friday, 19 January 2007

Justice Down Under

It's not so long ago that an Australian court found Pastor Daniel Scot and a colleague guilty of religious vilification after he criticised Islam in a church seminar - even though his criticisms appear to have been calm, reasonable and based on his considerable knowledge and experience. After two years that case has now been thrown out and a retrial has been ordered: Free speech victory for Australian Pastor.

The experience has been frustrating and exhausting for the pastors involved. As the Herald Sun reports (Pastors' toil and trouble), despite winning their appeal, the pastors must still pay half the costs of their challenge. They have been "harassed, threatened, denounced as bigots and flayed in the papers and on the ABC, and are now deep in debt".

The fallout from that case continues, with John Howard, the Australian prime minster now becoming involved. He has been condemned for sending a taped goodwill message to the group to which the two pastors belong: Group won't reveal PM's message and PM moves to defuse hate row.

The press is now reporting that an Australian Muslim cleric, Sheikh Feiz Mohammed, is distributing DVDs that incite jihad. See, for example, the International Herald Tribune and Herald Sun. Sheikh Mohammed is reported as stating that, "We want to have children and offer them as soldiers defending Islam", and of referring to Jews as "pigs".

It will be interesting to see how the Australian authorities deal with these allegations. On the one hand, I trust that he will be judged fairly. On the other, it must be obvious that these accusations are much more serious than those levelled at Daniel Scot.